Romania has never been a place that comes to mind when thinking about punk and DIY culture.
Among the countries that flourished with punk bands and DIY ethics in the Eastern Bloc simultaneously with the West—like Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, Poland and the USSR—Romania was always lagging behind.
The Emergence of Romanian Punk
In the early ’90s, with the fall of Ceaușescu’s dictatorship and introduction of “Capitalist’s western views”, punk steadily started to emerge in the West side of the country. Haos (Chaos) in Timișoara and Craiova’s post-punk act Terror Art were among the earliest notable punk bands in Romania.
Critica Radicala was an important political punk band born out of the ashes of Terror Art when they were beginning to fall apart. They continued the Terror Art style incorporating elements of gypsy folk music into their sound, in what they called—anarcho-gypsy-transmental-punk!
Other bands worth mentioning that were active in the ’90s punk scene in the Timișoara and Craiova area include Anti Pro, Null 00, Guranii and No Man’s Band.
The Eastern side of the country also started to embrace punk culture in cities like Bacau, where Scandal and Manifest adopted the oi! and anarcho culture being in a close relationship with the Craiova scene by regularly heading West to play shows there.
With the fall of the so called “Communism”, and opening of the borders, punk bands from other countries started to include the West side of the country on their tour schedules. Especially Timișoara, where the first shows took place in regular music clubs and bars. From then, a DIY punk movement was born out of need for DIY spaces and rehearsal rooms.
DIY Spaces & Collectives in Romania
Romania has never been big on DIY spaces though. Hard thing to set up due to high rents and lack of spaces that can accommodate them.
Timișoara: Atelier DIY, Gluga Neagra
The most important DIY space that ever graced our land was Atelier DIY in Timișoara formed by the local punks under the Gluga Neagra (Black Hood Society) mantle.
It’s worth mentioning that before Atelier DIY and Gluga Neagra ever existed, there was a punk collective called Miscarea Underground operating within the DIY space of bar INCA that included members from bands such as Haos, Arc Gotic, Afis Întunecat, Umbre Zidite, etc.
Gluga Neagra was a DIY collective from Timișoara that was active in the late 2000’s to early 2010’s, being active both music and political wise, with their headquarters being the Atelier DIY autonomous space.
The title of the article comes from the lyrics within the short song called “Atelier DIY” by the influential band Pavilionul 32.
In its short life, Atelier DIY hosted dozens of DIY shows from all over the globe, opened up Romania to more punk, being a somewhat pilgrimage place for Romanian punks from all over the country to come and see foreign bands.
It was also a very open place, where they would welcome and encourage any newcomer band to come and play, which spawned a new punk acts like Pavilionul 32, Livia Sura and The Bad Days Will End, some of which are still active today.
Atelier DIY and Gluga Neagra were also responsible of the first DIY music fest in Romania, called Underground Timisoara, which ran for about 14 years, initially started by Mişcarea Underground, gathering local and international punk acts in one place. The fest would later come to end, as well as Atelier DIY, thus putting on hiatus the punk scene in there.
Cluj-Napoca: LMA Collective, Rizom Infokiosk
Inspired by the Timișoara scene and bands, new DIY collectives would pop up around Romania. In Cluj-Napoca, a collective known as Leave Me Alone Collective (or LMA Collective) would emerge, focusing on radical politics and DIY music.
Their activities included zine publishing, visual art, vegan catering, or hosting shows at their own DIY space called Rizom, which unfortunately closed down because the property was to be demolished due to gentrification. Still, they pressed onwards, currently putting on gigs in a music venue. Rumours float around about a new DIY space coming soon.
Brașov: Play or Die Booking
In Brașov Play or Die Booking emerged, formed around two local bands—I Stared Into The Forest and grind punks Coins As Portraits—that would serve as an output to set up shows for their bands, but also bring other punk bands to play in town.
Most of their shows are hosted in rehearsal spaces and abandoned factories, but sometimes they might be held in random small venues that are up to having punks in their space.
Bucharest: Underworld, Macaz, The Alternative Library
Moving on south of Brașov, Romania’s capital, Bucharest, was always an oddball in the punk scene, simply because it always have embraced the commercial aspect of it, especially with the boom of pop punk on MTV in the late ’90s.
You had bands like ZOB which were basically the local version of Green Day, which in some sense did serve its role to attract kids to punk music, but not really to its ethics and politics.
Along the years a few booking collectives would come and go, but things really started to take shape in the Bucharest punk scene when a former CBGB’s sound guy decided to move back to Romania and start his own punk bar, Gabi Molotov, who is also a member of the punk band Molotov Cocktail. That’s the punk bar Underworld, basically the only punk space in the city which along the years hosted the coolest punk shows from local to international acts.
Other spaces in Bucharest that host punk shows in recent years include the newly formed anarcho cooperative Macaz, which came out of a space called The Alternative Library. The main focus of the space is left-wing politics, but it is also a place for music, initially just for parties, due to trouble with neighbors, now it also hosts punk and DIY acts shows.
Another space is Club Sims, a working class bar, situated near a student campus. It was appropriated by the art scene due to its openness and freedom, which soon welcomed the punk scene leading to a bunch of punk shows being held in that space featuring international and local punk acts.
DIY Collectives wise lately, a new group of young people emerged with a new DIY fest and collective, called Good but not the best Collective, which this year organised their first fest called (obviously) Good but not the best Fest, which was a real success, and brought a breath of fresh air into the local scene, hosting bands from abroad as well as showcasing a lot of local bands in one place, which is good to have, considering the local scene is so scattered here.
Another collective, is 7inc, which is a conglomerate of more small DIY related groups, from booking, to design, to even web design? But they are all centered around hardcore punk music and booking shows, which sometimes go more farther and also book metal or psychedelic bands, their taste spectrum is pretty large. They have been going strong for some years now, basically started in the basement bar called Question Mark (which at the moment has closed down) with small shows with local bands, later starting to book foreign punk acts as well.
Notable Romanian DIY bands around 2018-2019
Most recently, the punk scene in Bucharest has seen a somewhat moderate boom, with more people and bands delving into the genre’s vast diversity of sounds. Most of the bands are concentrated in Bucharest, mainly because of the dense population.
Garage punk is a popular thing around here these days, The Nuggers being the band that first comes to mind. A five piece made out of expats from various countries, who, somehow, found each other in Romania and decided to start a band here. They sound like The Spits and The Gories’s weird child, and are from another era, yet they sound fresh and fun.
Going down the garage route, Las Poftas is a newer band that hit the punk bars recently, doing a mix of garage and riot grrrl, at the same time keeping their identities hidden with weird masks and costumes, they claim to be from the States, but the accent tips them off. They have a self titled EP out and have toured around Europe.
There’s also a small crust thing going on in Bucharest, with bands like Void Forger who are very active in the scene with their blend of crust punk and sludgy riffs, paying homage to classic British stuff like Amebix, yet incorporating the ferocity and nihilist attitude of Eyehategod.
Ropeburn are another crusty band from Bucharest, they sound like Neurosis playing punk, but not late ’80s hardcore punk Neurosis, more like taking the modern riffs and playing them like they’re in Black Flag.
A band that caught my ears recently is Slicer, a newly formed group, out of other local acts that play straight forward blackened tinged punk-rock. They are are pretty amazing to see live, they’ve got the right energy… and, just like Las Poftas, they also try to keep their identity a secret, with flashy makeup and masks.
Emo punk seems to be continuously reviving across Europe. In Romania, it has started just recently to catch on, at least bands wise.
Bastos from Bucharest are the main emo act around, they just released their first full-length “Second Favourite Person”, which is a mash of various emo sounds from Rites of Spring to more mathy stuff like Tera Melos. Bastos also have a split EP with the French band Chaviré.
TBA follow up Bastos with a more pop punk sounds, but with a more political message in the lyrics. They are pretty active live these days, and are definitely fun to watch everytime. In 2016, Leo of TBA wrote a critical piece on the Romanian punk scene that’s worth taking a look at.
Dirtigluu are a new band that just recently played their first show, and were crazy good. They feature members of TBA and play mostly emo punk, but combined with “soundcloud emo rap” which might sound weird, but somehow it worked perfectly in the context of their show, definitely looking forward to more stuff from them.
In the punk by numbers spectrum, you have The Dead Ceausescus, a band started by Gabi from Molotov Cocktail. Initially as cover band of well known punk songs from the ’70s and ’80s, but with a twist to local politics. Now they started writing their own songs, which live sound great, so it’s a band to look forward in the coming years.
Another band worth mentioning, even though they just recently split up, is Killer Victim, a band born out of the ashes of Mediocracy, featuring a constantly rotating lineup, taking cues from the likes of Integrity and having a strong political message.
Lastly, Take No More are a neat hardcore band that’s the local scene answer to the Cro-Mags and Merauder, you basically get the picture on how they sound, but don’t be fooled, this band kicks ass, live and on the recorded material, which unfortunately is really slim, but hopefuly they will record more stuff.
Moving outside of Bucharest, there’s not much to talk about unfortunately, but there are a couple of acts that are worth mentioning.
One of them is VVVLV, from Timișoara mainly, but also featuring a member from Cluj-Napoca. They were formed out of crusty bands, Livia Sura, which is still active on and off these days, and Vera Renczi, a political hardcore group from Cluj-Napoca. VVVLV take on the anarcho leftist aspect of black metal, somewhat similar to Dawn Ray’d, but VVVLV’s sound being more close to old punk and crust.
In Brașov, there are two bands that are still active, but not as much as in the past, though they are still worth mentioning. I Stared into the Forest is a math screamo group that was more active in the early 2010’s which opened the way to screamo in Romania. Coins as Portraits is a jazzy grind band that shares members with I Stared into the Forest, they have been really active in the local punk scene since its inception, but as Forest, they have been less active lately, punk time runs out sometimes.
DIY Hardcore Punk Labels in Romania
Local DIY punk labels seem to be popping up lately around here.
Fading Halo is a DIY label from Brașov, started by members of I Stared into the Forest and Coins as Portraits, mainly to release their own bands stuff, but also other European and international acts, their main focus being screamo and emo punk.
Dvvm Recs. is a DIY label from Timișoara, formed out of the Atelier DIY space, run by Adi Craciun of VVVLV and Livia Sura, focusing on crust and punk, their most notable release being the Iskra LP “Ruins”.
Summercide Records is a Bucharest based punk label, formed just a few years ago, releasing mostly European and local acts on vinyl. Beach Buddies is a newly formed label out of Bucharest which so far released tapes by Bastos, Las Poftas and their split 7″ with Cold Brats.
So, that’s the Romanian scene, small but growing, sorry if you hoped for more. Check back in a few years!
There are some promising new punk acts like Fuck You! Dracu and Cold Brats in Bucharest, and disdedimineata in Cluj-Napoca. Only time will tell if they will manage to push forward the punk scene.